Schalke sack coach Wagner after disastrous Bundesliga start
GELSENKIRCHEN - Schalke said on Sunday that they have sacked coach David Wagner after a disastrous start to the Bundesliga - the worst in the club's history.
The Royal Blues have conceded 11 goals and scored just one in their opening two games. Saturday's 3-1 defeat at home to Werder Bremen came after an 8-0 opening-day drubbing against champions Bayern Munich.
The two defeats meant that Wagner had presided over a club record winless run of 18 games.
"We had all hoped that we could make the sporting change needed together with David Wagner," head of sport and communication Jochen Schneider was quoted as saying in a club statement. "Unfortunately the first two matchdays of the new season haven't brought the required performances and results."
Wagner's assistant coaches Christoph Buehler and Frank Froehling have likewise been relieved of their duties.
A successor to the 48-year-old has not yet been announced. Candidates include former Mainz coach Sandro Schwarz, ex-Augsburg coach Manuel Baum, former Stuttgart coach Alexander Zorniger and Marc Wilmots, a former Belgium coach and a Schalke legend as a player.
Germany youth coach Baum is favourite for the job, according to broadcaster Sky. Meanwhile Schalke youth coach Norbert Elgert is to take interim charge of the first team, beginning with Saturday's game against RB Leipzig.
"Norbert is demonstrably the best educator in Germany," Ralf Rangnick, who himself has had two spells in charge of Schalke, told Sky on Sunday.
"According to all that I know, he doesn't see himself in the professional sphere in the middle-to-long term," Rangnick said. "But it's foreseeable that he could be put in place now because Manuel Baum can't be got from the German football federation in three days."
Rangnick himself didn't rule out a return to Schalke.
Baum, 41, coached Bundesliga side Augsburg from 2016 to 2019. Since July 2019 he has been the coach of Germany's under-20 side.
Meanwhile Wilmots said that he had cheered Schalke on against Bremen and suffered along with the fans - but he was reticent to throw his hat into the ring for the coach's job.
"I've had a lot of messages from Schalke fans in the last few days, which made me really happy," Wilmots told the newspaper Weser-Kurier. "I won't say anything more to your question [regarding the vacant job], out of respect for my colleague and former team-mate David Wagner," he said. "That's not appropriate."
In 58 Bundesliga seasons, Wagner is only the fourth coach to be let go after two matchdays. The others are Rinus Michels (Cologne, 1983) Morten Olsen (Cologne, 1995) and Dieter Hecking (Hanover, 2009). Wagner, who played for Schalke in the mid-1990s, was contracted until 2022.
Wagner was appointed last summer and had steered Schalke to fifth in the table by mid-January, when a 2-0 win over Borussia Moenchengladbach saw them sit just three points behind eventual champions Bayern.
But Schalke haven't won a league game since and Wagner has paid with his job for that failure.
Saturday was a grim day all round for Schalke, with their defeat compounded by an incident in which their defender Ozan Kabak appeared to spit at Bremen's Ludwig Augustinsson.
"It's not nice. It has nothing to do with football," Augustinsson told Sky on Saturday. "It's not fair play."
The 26-year-old Swede was made aware of the first-half incident only afterwards, when shown TV pictures. But former Germany international and Sky expert Lothar Matthaeus was in no doubt that Kabak had acted with intent.
"That was deliberate, a conscious move," Matthaeus said. "As a player, being spat at is the worst. I hope he will be punished."
Kabak did see red in the 84th minute, when he was given a second yellow card for persistent fouling - but he maintained that there had been no intent in the spitting incident.
"It was not deliberate, the view from outside is deceptive," he said. "I've never done anything like that and I will also never do that, because it's simply unsporting. This was very unlucky. In any case apologies to Ludwig," he said.